Ralston said leaving took some time and effort.
"For me, I couldn't go anywhere from here," she said. "I wanted to go to a place that was inviting and had friendly people just like Charleston. I kept going back to Nashville. The people there are hospitable, and the people at WTVF Nashville are really invested in their station. I knew it would be a perfect fit so I accepted the job."
Ralston will be the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. anchor for WTVF Nashville. She is moving into a much larger market and will have the opportunity to host programs on WTVF's sister network, News Channel 5 Plus.
After Ralston accepted the Nashville job, she contacted her general manager who sent out a mass email noting her departure.
WSAZ General Manager Matt Jaquint said he is going to miss her.
"She's been here nearly 10 years and she's been great for Charleston, great for the Kanawha Valley and great for WSAZ," Jaquint said. "We want all our employees to get out in the community and get to know some of our viewers. Jessica is a great example because of her involvement and her commitment to serve the community."
Jaquint said a search is currently ongoing and he hopes to find Ralston's replacement soon.
"A lot of jaws dropped once that email was sent out," Ralston said. "I had to inform my viewers that I was leaving and it was difficult for me to find the words to say."
On Sept. 11, Ralston wrote the following message on her public Facebook page:
"My heart is pounding as I write this . . . filled with sadness and excitement at the same time. I wanted to let all of you know that my 10-year run at WSAZ is coming to a close. As of mid-October, I will be the 5:00 / 10:00 anchor at WTVF in Nashville. It's a fantastic opportunity and an amazing station. I am so sad to leave WV after all these years but so excited to begin this new chapter. I can't thank all of you enough for being such loyal, faithful and friendly viewers. This page is almost 30,000 strong so I plan to keep it and hope you will stay here too."
She has received more than 5,000 comments since posting her departure announcement.
"When I read those comments, I begin to cry," Ralston said. "There are comments from parents who consider me a mentor and say their daughters look up to me. I never knew I had that much influence on people.
I guess I just kept doing what I was doing and never thought I had such an impact on people. It's definitely overwhelming."
Ralston is engaged to get married. She said her fiance will live a dual-city life, considering he has a business in Charleston. Ralston and her dogs will transition from country to city living when she moves to her condo in Nashville next month.
"It will be a big adjustment but I am excited for this new chapter in my life," Ralston said. "I want people to know that I have truly enjoyed my time here and Charleston will always have a special place in my heart."
Ralston begins her Nashville job Oct. 21 and will not waste time getting involved. She plans to volunteer at the Nashville food bank her first week in her new city.
Contact writer John Gibb at john.g...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796.